Social Action at NVHC

Social Action at NVHC

“For I have singled [Abraham] out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right (tzedakah u’mishpat)” (Genesis 18:19). Losing no time, Abraham boldly initiates a plea (and succeeds!) on behalf of the innocent in Sodom.   His intervention dramatically illustrates that a defining feature of the covenantal relationship Jews have with God is the autonomy we have been given to improve our world (tikkun olam) by seeking to alleviate suffering, prevent abuse and exploitation, and elevate humanity.

NVHC Change, NVHC’s Social Action Committee, supports NVHC’s commitment to tzedakah u’mishpat and tikkun olam by enabling and coordinating  our congregation’s participation in social justice, community service, charitable giving, issue advocacy and learning (collectively “social action”).  The committee creates opportunities for the congregation to work on social action by:

  • building relationships among congregants to create a community of people interested in social action,
  • maintaining a comprehensive and updated list of all social action activities at NVHC,
  • identifying congregational social action priorities and resources, and
  • partnering with social action organizations.

Learn more about how we operate by reading our Social Action Committee Charter.   Meetings are open to all congregants. Don’t want to come to a meeting?   Contact the Social Action Chair to get on our email list to learn about upcoming events and updates.  ShowClick Here to View Contact Information

What we do

Our activities have included providing warm meals and hand knitted scarves for guests of the local hypothermia shelter, packing snack bags for local children experiencing food insecurity, drawing attention to issues of poverty and homelessness, and working to provide a cleaner, greener environment.  Together with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, we seek to counter discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and we are active participants in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement), an organization committed to bringing people together across religious, racial, economic and political party affiliations to build a stronger Northern Virginia. In partnership with Cornerstones (formally Reston Interfaith) and other organizations, NVHC members take action in the spirit of Tikkun Olam to make the world more habitable and compassionate for all people. NVHC Change is always looking for people who want to make a difference.

NVHC Change Activity List for a summary list of what we do.   We also have a list of organizations in the area that are looking for volunteers. And don’t forget that NVHC can always use your help too (please see the last page on the list for ways you can help NVHC).  Please contact the Social Action Chair (Ellen Ranard) if you would like to become involved or would like more information on our activities.  ShowClick Here to View Contact Information


NVHC is a member institution of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE). VOICE is a multi-faith, non-partisan citizens’ organization which acts on issues that affect the most vulnerable families and communities in Northern Virginia.  An important part of our Social Action mission, VOICE aims to close equality gaps and hold public officials and other policy-makers accountable to the populations they serve.  Through community organizing, VOICE has helped us to consolidate our power with other faith based organizations and affect real social change in Fairfax County and beyond.  More information on VOICE can be found on their website.

NVHC was well represented at the October 21, 2018 action with over 65 congregants joining 1,400 other VOICE members from 55 + institutions throughout Northern Virginia.  Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring committed to working with VOICE to reform the Virginia cash bail system, decrease mass incarceration, and prioritize funding for mental health in schools, among other issues.

NVHC congregants were also involved with the non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort last year and for this year’s 2018 midterm elections.  These GOTV efforts are important to increase voter turn out in typically low turn out precincts in Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William Counties.

In addition, NVHC has been at the forefront of VOICE’s efforts to partner with Fairfax County Public Schools to create a school environment that is more inclusive of non-Christian students.  In fact, NVHC and VOICE’s work on this issue was highlighted in the Washington Post.  You can check out the Washington Post article: NVHC in the News: Washington Post Article.  

Also be sure to check out this article on the NVHC blog which shares more about the VOICE/FCPS partnership and how you can get involved.

Learn more about VOICE’s recent victories:   VOICE 2018 Victories and VOICE 2017 Victories

Want to learn more about how VOICE works:  Why Organize?


Cornerstones  (formerly Reston Interfaith) is a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare and other services in northwestern Fairfax County.   More information can be found on their website.

NVHC was a founding member of Reston Interfaith in 1970, and we continue today to support and partner with Cornerstones in its social services mission.   Andy Lacher serves as NVHC’s representative to Cornerstones.  In his role as NVHC representative, Andy works with NVHC Change: Social Action to strengthen our congregation’s commitment to serving people in need and advocating for social justice.

Every year we participate in the high holiday food drive (see below) and donate food to Cornerstones’ food pantry.  We also cook dinner a few times a year for the 100 adults and children at the Embry Rucker Shelter and donate books to the Cedar Ridge Community Center.

Volunteer opportunities are available at Cornerstones for all ages.

Cornerstones Off-site Volunteer Activities for Youth.  More information: Embry Rucker Shelter Bagged Meal Guidelines 2018 and Embry Rucker Shelter Bedtime Snack Pack Guidelines


Did you know that hundreds of kids in Fairfax County go home from school on Friday knowing that their next meal will not be until they return to school Monday morning?  NVHC Change  is helping to fight food insecurity and fill hungry tummies through the Weekend Snack Bag program for Forest Edge Elementary School and Clearview Elementary School. Twice a month, NVHC Change volunteers donate food and pack 225 gallon sized bags with healthy snacks to send home with children in need, right here in Reston. The needs at these elementary schools continue to rise and we need more helpers to coordinate this effort.  We have had incredible support from all of you with donating food and packing bags, but we need more people “behind the scenes” helping with gathering food we need to purchase, getting the word out to the congregation, picking up bins from the school and more.   We are seeking food donations ALL year long. Please help to support this effort by bringing in as many food donations as you can give. If you have any questions please contact Alison. To find out how you can donate food or help pack bags email Alison Behar at ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

We will hold food packs on Sundays at noon on: 10/6, 11/10, 12/8, 1/12, 2/2, 3/1, 3/29, 4/26, 5/17, 6/5, plus monthly on Tuesdays during Tamid.

Please help to support this effort as well by sending your child in each week to Kehillat Limmud, and/or midweek Hebrew or Tamid with as many food donations as you can give.  Below find a list of what the students donate (the school will let you know which grades are donating each item).

  • boxes of raisins
  • individual fruit cups or individual applesauce cups or packets
  • individual popcorn bags and individual packets of instant oatmeal
  • granola bars and gallon size ziploc bags
  • canned tuna, salmon, or chicken (no food with beef, pork, or gelatin)
  • individual trail mix bags and milk boxes
  • individual self-serve mac n cheese cups and peanut butter or cheese and cracker packs


Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston and Clearview Elementary School in Herndon both participate in a Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) endorsed mentoring program (Mentor Works) for their students.  NVHC members volunteer 30 minutes once a week to mentor a student during the student’s lunch time (at Forest Edge, between 11:00 and 1:30; at Clearview, during breakfast or lunch).

What is expected of you?

  • A weekly commitment to meet with the same student at the elementary school for 30 minutes
  • Attend a training session for mentors at the beginning of the school year
  • Background screening (including fingerprinting) will be performed by FCPS.

FCPS information about mentoring is here.

Enrichment Volunteering:  NVHC members volunteer weekly in a before-school enrichment class at Forest Edge Elementary School.  Volunteers assist the teacher and work in small groups with kindergartners and first graders.

Classroom Volunteering:   We are looking for volunteers to help in the classroom at Clearview Elementary School.   Volunteers must make a regular commitment of 45 to 60 minutes but this can be once a month, twice a month or weekly.  Volunteers will work with students,  usually helping with reading.

If you have further questions about these programs or would like to mentor a student at FEES, please contact the Social Action Chair ViewClick Here to View Contact Information.


For several years, NVHC Change volunteers have supported Cornerstone’s Hypothermia Shelter by shopping for, cooking, and serving meals for the guests of the shelter. During the cold months, NVHC Change provides a warm meal once every two weeks from December through March. One congregant shared her experience volunteering with the Hypothermia Shelter: “When I first signed up to help provide meals for the hypothermia shelter, I was amazed at how many members of the NVHC are quietly involved in this endeavor, and how easy it is to participate. When I came to help cook, I was in awe at how organized it was, and how the recipes and procedures are down to a “science.” When I finally got a chance toserve the meal at the shelter, I could see how all the effort did make a difference. The recipients were very appreciative of the food and our efforts. The meal included fresh salad and fruit and home-baked bread. It is a blessing to be able to help others because it makes you appreciative of what you often take for granted.” -Judi Ornoff

From time to time, we prepare and serve meals to 100 residents at Cornerstone’s Embry Rucker Shelter.   If you want to help by preparing baked goods (rolls and cookies) in advance, cooking together as a group, or serving the meals. let us know and we will notify you about the next meal we plan.   Please contact the Social Action Chair at:  ShowClick Here to View Contact Information

We have completed the Hypothermia meals for 2017-2018 but we will need help for several meals from December through March, 2018-2019.  If you can help by providing materials, preparing or serving the meals, please contact the Social Action Chair at:  ShowClick Here to View Contact Information


NVHC recently became a member of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. (FACS), a nonpartisan, nonprofit, interfaith organization (with over 70 local faith organization participants) that focuses on developing local solutions to climate and environmental issues.  We used Tikkun Olam Campaign Funds to join FACS, not NVHC operating funds.  How does FACS develop the issues it promotes?  Representatives of member congregations meet annually to adopt policy and program goals for the coming year.  FACS  asks its members to suggest issues and programs that they want considered.  Ken Gubin is our representative to FACS.  Contact ViewClick Here to View Contact Information with questions and comments or if you would like to get involved.

This year we hosted a forum for all Board of Supervisor Candidates from the local districts focusing on the candidates’ positions on environmental issues.  It was a non-partisan event organized by local environmental groups, including FACS.    We also hosted the FACS Sustainability Awards, which honor individuals who’ve made contributions on environmental issues locally.  Students from Madison High School, including a young member of NVHC, were honored for helping persuade the School Board to push for the installation of solar panels on Fairfax public schools.


This NVHC tradition has become a significant part of our High Holiday Observance. By donating the food that we do not eat on Yom Kippur, Cornerstones is better able to provide for the less fortunate in our community. Grocery bags are distributed on Rosh Hashanah and congregants return the bags, filled with non-perishable groceries, at Yom Kippur morning services.


A Green Team has recently been formed at NVHC.

Jewish text and teachings demands of us to work toward a sustainable future for all humanity by living out the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (justice), derekh eretz (civility and humanity), and chesed (mercy and kindness), among others.

To support NVHC’s commitment to such values and work towards a sustainable future, the NVHC Green Team has the purpose of identifying and implementing specific solutions to reduce NVHC’s carbon footprint, enhance sustainability and educate congregants of all ages on what they can do at NVHC, their homes, and businesses to reduce their individual carbon footprint.

Green Team members serve as ambassadors, promoting sustainable initiatives and solutions throughout the different aspects of congregational life. The Green Team does not lead external advocacy efforts, but coordinates initiatives with the Social Action Committee and any of the organizations that NVHC works with (i.e., VOICE, Cornerstones, etc.)

Read the NVHC Green Team Charter and contact ViewClick Here to View Contact Information if you would like to get involved.

Shabbat Dinners

The Social Action Committee sponsored the Jubilee Kick Off Event, 50 Shabbat Dinners, on September 23, 2016.  Together as a community, over 500 congregants celebrated Shabbat in 50 homes across Northern Virginia.  Again in January 2018 and February 2019, NVHC members opened their homes so that we were able to experience Shabbat dinner together, as a community.

Other Ongoing Programs

  • Represented NVHC at the first annual Reston Pride Event in June 2018 and again in June 2019.
  • Organized a collection drive for book for Cornerstones Ceder Ridge Community.
  • Sponsored and helped serve a dinner at the Ceder Ridge Community Center.
  • Helped the Religious School Students with social action projects including writing non-partisan postcards to Get Out The Vote during the November elections, packing snack bags for Cornerstones and  making fleece blankets for Project Linus
  • Purchased and circulated reusable shopping bags for Fairfax County’s plastic free challenge.
  • Knitted squares for blankets for Warm Up America. This is an ongoing project if you want to help, contact the Social Action Chair.
  • Donated clothes to and volunteered at the “store” for Women Giving Back.

We explore social issues of interest to the community and connect social action with Jewish practices
and beliefs.

Apply for a Microgant

Apply for a microgrant of $25 to $250 for your social action project.  These grants are funded by the money raised during our recent Tikkun Olam Campaign.

ADAMS Center Greeters

Welcome members of the ADAMS Center when they come to pray at NVHC on Friday afternoons. No experience needed!

Tasks:  Stand at the doorway and welcome the worshipers as they enter the temple.

Two prayer services are between 12:30 to 2:30 pm.

  • First prayer service:  Arrive around 12:20, service starts at 1 p.mMembers exit at 1:15 pm and you can wish them well again.
  • Second prayer service:  Members arrive 1:30 or so.  Stay if you are able to greet those coming to later services.

We would love to have at least 2 on each Friday but more are welcome. We are listing slots for 6 on each Friday. You may also come for part of the time (please note that in the comments). If the 6 slots are full on any given day and you would like to join the group, please just show up!